ORGANIZING PRODUCTION

Objectives
After studying this chapter, you will able to  Explain what a firm is and describe the economic problems that all firms face  Distinguish between technological efficiency and economic efficiency  Define and explain the principal-agent problem and describe how different types of business organizations cope with this problem

Objectives
After studying this chapter, you will able to  Describe and distinguish between different types of markets in which firms operate  Explain why markets coordinate some economic activities and firms coordinate others

Spinning a Web
Tim Berners-Lee’s idea, the World Wide Web, has provided a platform for the creation of thousands of profitable businesses, from tiny owner-operated firms to giant multinationals. This chapter explains the role of firms and the problems that all firms face.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
A firm is an institution that hires factors of production and organizes them to produce and sell goods and services. The Firm’s Goal A firm’s goal is to maximize profit. If the firm fails to maximize profit, it is either eliminated or bought out by other firms seeking to maximize profit.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Measuring a Firm’s Profit Accountants measure a firm’s profit using rules laid down by the Internal Revenue Service and the Financial Accounting Standards Board. Their goal is to report profit so that the firm pays the correct amount of tax and is open and honest about its financial situation with its bank and other lenders. Economists measure profit based on an opportunity cost measure of cost.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Opportunity Cost A firm’s decisions respond to opportunity cost and economic profit. A firm’s opportunity cost of producing a good is the best, forgone alternative use of its factors of production, usually measured in dollars. Opportunity cost includes both:  Explicit costs  Implicit costs

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Explicit costs are costs paid directly in money. Implicit costs are costs incurred when a firm uses its own capital or its owners’ time for which it does not make a direct money payment. The firm can rent capital and pay an explicit rental cost reflecting the opportunity cost of using the capital. The firm can also buy capital and incur an implicit opportunity cost of using its own capital, called the implicit rental rate of capital.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
The implicit rental rate of capital is made up of:  Economic depreciation  Interest forgone Economic depreciation is the change in the market value of capital over a given period. Interest forgone is the return on the funds used to acquire the capital.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
The cost of the owner’s resources is his or her entrepreneurial ability and labor expended in running the business. The opportunity cost of the owner’s entrepreneurial ability is the average return from this contribution that can be expected from running another firm. This return is called a normal profit. The opportunity cost of the owner’s labor spent running the business is the wage income forgone by not working in the next best alternative job.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Economic Profit Economic profit equals a firm’s total revenue minus its opportunity cost of production. A firm’s opportunity cost of production is the sum of the explicit costs and implicit costs. Normal profit is part of the firm’s opportunity costs, so economic profit is profit over and above normal profit. Table 9.1 on page 193 summarizes the economic accounting concepts.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Economic Accounting: A Summary To maximize profit, a firm must make five basic decisions:  What goods and services to produce and in what quantities  How to produce—the production technology to use  How to organize and compensate its managers and workers  How to market and price its products  What to produce itself and what to buy from other firms

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
The Firm’s Constraints The five basic decisions of a firm are limited by the constraints it faces. There are three constraints a firm faces:  Technology  Information  Market

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Technology Constraints Technology is any method of producing a good or service. Technology advances over time. Using the available technology, the firm can produce more only if it hires more resources, which will increase its costs and limit the profit of additional output.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Information Constraints A firm never possesses complete information about either the present or the future. It is constrained by limited information about the quality and effort of its work force, current and future buying plans of its customers, and the plans of its competitors. The cost of coping with limited information limits profit.

The Firm and Its Economic Problem
Market Constraints What a firm can sell and the price it can obtain are constrained by its customers’ willingness to pay and by the prices and marketing efforts of other firms. The resources that a firm can buy and the prices it must pay for them are limited by the willingness of people to work for and invest in the firm. The expenditures a firm incurs to overcome these market constraints will limit the profit the firm can make.

Technology and Economic Efficiency
Technological Efficiency Technological efficiency occurs when a firm produces a given level of output by using the least amount of inputs. Table 9.2 (page 195) shows four ways of making a TV set, one of which is technologically inefficient. There may be different combinations of inputs to use for producing a given level of output. If it is impossible to maintain output by decreasing any one input, holding all other inputs constant, then production is technologically efficient.

Technology and Economic Efficiency
Economic Efficiency Economic efficiency occurs when the firm produces a given level of output at the least cost. Table 9.3 (page 196) shows how the economically efficient method depends on the relative costs of capital and labor. The difference between technological and economic efficiency is that technological efficiency is concerned with the quantity of inputs used in production for a given level of output, whereas economic efficiency is concerned with the cost of the inputs used.

Technology and Economic Efficiency
An economically efficient production process also is technologically efficient.\ A technologically efficient process may not be economically efficient. Changes in the input prices influence the value of the inputs, but not the technological process for using them in production.

Information and Organization
A firm organizes production by combining and coordinating productive resources using a mixture of two systems:  Command systems  Incentive systems

Information and Organization
Command Systems A command system uses a managerial hierarchy. Commands pass downward through the hierarchy and information (feedback) passes upward. These systems are relatively rigid and can have many layers of specialized management.

Information and Organization
Incentive Systems An incentive system uses market-like mechanisms to induce workers to perform in ways that maximize the firm’s profit.

Information and Organization
Mixing the Systems Most firms use a mix of command and incentive systems to maximize profit. They use commands when it is easy to monitor performance or when a small deviation from the ideal performance is very costly. They use incentives whenever monitoring performance is impossible or too costly to be worth doing.

Information and Organization
The Principal-Agent Problem The principal-agent problem is the problem of devising compensation rules that induce an agent to act in the best interests of a principal. For example, the stockholders of a firm are the principals and the managers of the firm are their agents.

Information and Organization
Coping with the Principal-Agent Problem Three ways of coping with the principal-agent problem are:  Ownership  Incentive pay  Long-term contracts

Information and Organization
Ownership, often offered to managers, gives the managers an incentive to maximize the firm’s profits, which is the goal of the owners, the principals. Incentive pay links managers’ or workers’ pay to the firm’s performance and helps align the managers’ and workers’ interests with those of the owners, the principals. Long-term contracts can tie managers’ or workers’ longterm rewards to the long-term performance of the firm. This arrangement encourages the agents to work in the best long-term interests of the firm owners, the principals.

Information and Organization
Types of Business Organization There are three types of business organization:  Proprietorship  Partnership  Corporation

Information and Organization
Proprietorship A proprietorship is a firm with a single owner who has unlimited liability, or legal responsibility for all debts incurred by the firm—up to an amount equal to the entire wealth of the owner. The proprietor also makes management decisions and receives the firm’s profit. Profits are taxed the same as the owner’s other income.

Information and Organization
Partnership A partnership is a firm with two or more owners who have unlimited liability. Partners must agree on a management structure and how to divide up the profits. Profits from partnerships are taxed as the personal income of the owners.

Information and Organization
Corporation A corporation is owned by one or more stockholders with limited liability, which means the owners have legal liability only for the initial value of their investment. The personal wealth of the stockholders is not at risk if the firm goes bankrupt. The profit of corporations is taxed twice—once as a corporate tax on firm profits, and then again as income taxes paid by stockholders receiving their after-tax profits distributed as dividends.

Information and Organization
Pros and Cons of Different Types of Firms Each type of business organization has advantages and disadvantages. Table 9.4 (page 199) lists the pros and cons of different types of ownership.

Information and Organization
 Proprietorships are easy to set up  Managerial decision-making is simple  Profits are taxed only once  But bad decisions made by the manager are not subject to review  The owner’s entire wealth is at stake  The firm dies with the owner  The cost of capital and labor can be high

Information and Organization
 Partnerships are easy to set up  Employ diversified decision-making processes  Can survive the death or withdrawal of a partner  Profits are taxed only once  But partnerships make attaining a consensus about managerial decisions difficult  Place the owners’ entire wealth at risk  The cost of capital can be high, and the withdrawal of a partner might create a capital shortage

Information and Organization
 A corporation offers perpetual life  Limited liability for its owners  Large-scale and low-cost capital that is readily available  Professional management  Lower costs from long-term labor contracts  But a corporation’s management structure may lead to slower and expensive decision-making  Profit is taxed twice—as corporate profit and shareholder income.

Information and Organization
The Relative Importance of Different Types of Firms There are a greater number of proprietorships than other form of business, but corporations account for the majority of revenue received by businesses.

Information and Organization
Figure 9.1(a) shows the frequency of each type of business organization.

Figure 9.1(b) shows the dominant type of business organization for various industries.

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Economists identify four market types:  Perfect competition  Monopolistic competition  Oligopoly  Monopoly

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Perfect competition is a market structure with:  Many firms  Each sells an identical product  Many buyers  No restrictions on entry of new firms to the industry  Both firms and buyers are all well-informed of the prices and products of all firms in the industry

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Monopolistic competition is a market structure with:  Many firms  Each firm produces similar but slightly different products —called product differentiation  Each firm possesses an element of market power  No restrictions on entry of new firms to the industry

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Oligopoly is a market structure in which:  A small number of firms compete  The firms might produce almost identical products or differentiated products  Barriers to entry limit entry into the market

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Monopoly is a market structure in which:  One firm produces the entire output of the industry  There are no close substitutes for the product  There are barriers to entry that protect the firm from competition by entering firms

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Measures of Concentration Two measures of market concentration in common use are:  The four-firm concentration ratio  The Herfindahl–Hirschman index (HHI)

Markets and the Competitive Environment
The four-firm concentration ratio is the percentage of the total industry sales accounted for by the four largest firms in the industry. The Herfindahl–Hirschman index (HHI) is the sum of the squared market shares of the 50 largest firms in the industry. The larger the measure of market concentration, the less competition that exists in the industry. Table 9.5 on page 202 shows an example calculation for each ratio.

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Concentration Measures for the U.S. Economy The U.S. Justice Department uses the HHI to classify markets.  A market with an HHI of less than 1,000 is regarded as highly competitive  A market with an HHI between 1,000 and 1,800 is regarded as moderately competitive  A market with an HHI greater than 1,800 is uncompetitive

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Figure 9.2 shows the fourfirm concentration ratio for various industries in the United States. The figure also shows the HHI for these industries.

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Limitations of Concentration Measures Concentration measures alone are not sufficient to identify the market structure of a given industry. Concentration ratios are based on the national market. For some goods, the relevant market is local (e.g., newspapers). For some goods, the relevant market is the world (e.g., automobiles).

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Concentration ratios convey no information about the extent of barriers to entry. For some industries, few firms may be currently operating in the market but competition might be fierce, with firms regularly entering and exiting the industry. Even potential entry might be enough to maintain competition.

Markets and the Competitive Environment

Table 9.6 on page 203 summarizes the range of other information used with the concentration ratio to determine market structure.

Markets and the Competitive Environment
Market Structures in the U.S. Economy Figure 9.3 shows the distribution of market structures in the U.S. economy. The economy is mainly competitive.

Markets and Firms
Market Coordination Markets and firms both coordinate production. Chapter 3 explains how demand and supply coordinate the plans of buyers and sellers. Outsourcing—buying parts or products from other firms— is an example of market coordination of production. But firms coordinate more production than do markets. Why?

Markets and Firms
Why Firms? Firms coordinate production when they can do so more efficiently than a market. Four key reasons might make firms more efficient. Firms can achieve:  Lower transactions costs  Economies of scale  Economies of scope  Economies of team production

Markets and Firms
Transactions costs are the costs arising from finding someone with whom to do business, reaching agreement on the price and other aspects of the exchange, and ensuring that the terms of the agreement are fulfilled. Economies of scale occur when the cost of producing a unit of a good falls as its output rate increases. Economies of scope arise when a firm can use specialized inputs to produce a range of different goods at a lower cost than otherwise. Firms can engage in team production, in which the individuals specialize in mutually supporting tasks.

ORGANIZING PRODUCTION

CHAPTE R

9

THE END

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